Tales From the Nordic Troll #9: WIld Cards (part 6)
Friday, September 18, 2020

“Gentlemen, or – whatever”, Nick Gerrin announced, “Game’s over. Your boss split. Took all his money and vamoosed outta here. Some kind of Alliance trouble, I heard”. He paused before continuing, “Stand down. You ain’t gettin’ paid today. My friends and I got the high ground and you’ve been left high and dry”.


The sky grew lighter as the Troll’s engines came to life on the field outside of Shepherd McGarrity’s village. Loomie flipped several switches and pulled the handset from the holding bracket. “All right, everybody, here we go. Lizzie, the help set?”

“Waitin’ in the cargo hold”, Wilkins called over the speaker from the engineroom.

“Doc, you good?”

No answer. “Doc?”

Over the speaker Doc bellowed irritably “I’m up, already!”

“Good”, Loomie continued hesitantly, “‘cuz I think you gotta go to work, soon”.

“I’ll be ready”, Doc grumbled a little less groggily.

“Okay”, Loomie put the handset back in its cradle. As she pulled back the stick she murmured sourly “Let’s get done with this”.

The Troll lifted toward the sky, blasting dust and blades of wild grass into the air around its former perch.

- - - - - - - - - -

The first light of dawn peaked over the nearby trees as the battle raged on. The farmers and their new allies had managed to keep the attacking thugs pinned down, despite sporadic losses on both sides, due to injury and sometimes abandonment.

Aldous helped to keep the remaining defenders rallied. “Keep on ‘em”, he shouted from time to time, “we’re wearing ‘em down!” Grabbing his comlink he called “Lewis, are they on their way yet?”

“Wait one”, Lewis cracked back.

“Yeah, take your time”, Aldous rasped to no one in particular as he sighted his rifle and continued firing.

A minute later Lewis buzzed and crackled on the comlink “Aldous?”

Aldous snatched at his link. “What?”

“Loomie says duck!”

“Huh?” Then Aldous heard it: the growing thunder of the Troll’s engines. He barely had time to yell “DUCK!!” and dive to the bottom of the foxhole as the Troll roared overhead. He looked up as the rumbling ship receded into the distance. “Now where’s she going?”

“To get the captain”, Lewis answered.

- - - - - - -

The door to the house burst open and Gerrin, Reilly and Park sprang from the house, weapons drawn. In the predawn light, only two of McMillan’s remaining men could be seen standing outside one of the shacks. The two of them stood there, dumbly, until one realized what was happening and started yelling “HEY!! There’s outsiders in boss’s house!”

Reilly responded first, aiming and firing at the shouting man, missing as he ducked behind what looked like a well. Gerrin yanked Reilly back inside the door as the other of McMillan’s men fired back. Park returned fire. Between shots the three of them could hear the first man yelling “Git up, vermin! We got invaders!”

The Troll crewmen fired from the doorway as seven more men burst forth from the adjoining huts, guns drawn. Reilly managed to shoot one as he emerged, Gerrin got another one. The remaining seven rained fire on the doorway. One bullet clipped the door frame as Gerrin pulled out his commlink. “Loomie!” he shouted, “You in the air yet?”

Loomie’s voice was barely audible over the noise. “Thirty seconds, Cap’n” she called out.


Gerrin barely heard her hiss “Chunhuo (Idiot)” before she added loudly and somewhat brokenly in Gerrin’s native Russian “YA POCH-TEE NA MYES-TE (I’M ALMOST THERE), CAP – TAIN!”

“Oh . . . good. Hover in front of the house and then put her down”. Gerrin shoved the commlink into his pocket and resumed firing.

Reilly managed to take down one of the thugs while barely missing a bullet embedding itself in the wall by his head. Park, despite his injury, got one in the leg as well before his gun went silent. “I’m out!” he announced.

Gerrin dug into one of his pockets. “Here!” he called back, shoving a loaded magazine into Park’s hand. “Make ‘em count!”

The Troll crewmen held their own against the five remaining men pinned down behind whatever cover they had managed to find. Gerrin, Reilly and Park were starting to worry about ammunition when they heard the growing roar of the Troll’s engines and saw the scattered treetops start to shake and sway. Loomie brought the ship in slow and low over the opening in front of the house, the thruster wash blowing the defending thugs to the ground. The five thugs crawled like roaches, one or two at a time, until they could walk again, and stood and ran. From the huts, two women leapt and ran.

“’Bout time”, Gerrin grunted as he shoved his pistol back into the holster at his side. “All right”, he announced, “Let’s get this ‘boss’ guy and go home!”

The three of them turned back into the house and down the hall. There lay McMillan, where they’d left him. Gerrin and Reilly yanked off his ankle bonds and yanked him roughly to his feet. “C’mon, Bossy”, Reilly bellowed, “You got some explaining to do”.

Gerrin and Park both shot a quizzical look at Reilly, who winked. Together Reilly and Gerrin dragged McMillan through the front door toward the Troll as the ship’s main cargo door slowly swung toward the ground. “Yeah, we gettin’ government pay today”, Reilly crowed for the benefit of McMillan’s wounded men.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

The sun had risen over the hills back at the farm as Aldous, Auntie and the few farmers not dead or wounded continued their firefight with the would-be invaders. All were running low on ammo and firing one shot at a time. Even those who had joined the party earlier were firing single shots. While the farmers had killed or wounded several of the thugs, they had no idea how many were left.

Out of ammunition, Aldous jumped from his foxhole and ran in a crouch to Auntie’s foxhole, literally diving into the shallow pit. Auntie took careful aim and fired as Aldous raised himself into a crouch. “How you doin’ on ammo?” he asked.

“I’m gonna have to look for some rocks to throw soon”, she grunted.

Aldous urgently scanned the sky. “They should be here soon”, he offered.

“Soon ain’t soon enough”, Auntie retorted tersely.

“We got some place we can fall back to?”

“We got the house, that’s it”. She paused before adding “Unless you cooked up something you ain’t shared”.

“I wish I had”.

Turning to the side Auntie yelled “Everyone not shooting inside the house!” Turning to the other side she called out “Inside the house if you’re not shooting!”

Aldous yanked her back down. “What’re you gonna do?”

Raising her rifle Auntie answered “I’m done running. If I’m livin’ or dyin’, I’m doin’ it right here”.

“That’s a –“ Aldous stopped short and listened: the distinctive rumble of the Troll’s engines grew louder. Looking up he saw the ship, swooping down like a bird of prey, then hovering over the enemy positions. The blast from the thrusters flattened the tall grass and knocked most of the attackers off their feet. The ship floated slowly over the length of the enemy lines before turning to face the enemy. Aldous noticed the two tail guns in the back, but also that the main cargo door slowly swinging open and several armed men stepping out toward the edge. Suddenly Nick Gerrin’s voice boomed over the loudspeaker, audible even over the roar of the engines.

“Gentlemen, or – whatever”, he announced, “Game’s over. Your boss split. Took all his money and vamoosed outta here. Some kind of Alliance trouble, I heard”. He paused before continuing, “Stand down. You ain’t gettin’ paid today. My friends and I got the high ground and you’ve been left high and dry”.

Some of the attackers slowly lowered their weapons. Others simply stared at the ship in the sky. “You see these big guns?” Gerrin continued as the Troll slowly turned her tail toward the attackers. “They can turn you into scooped-out cow guts in a few seconds if I use ‘em, and my guys’ll tell you I won’t hesitate to. Ask ‘em”. When they still failed to budge, he added “Or I could just let the guys perched on the bay door have you” as he turned the ship to face them again. “Which would you like?”

Slowly the attackers lowered their weapons and set them on the ground. “Good choice”, Gerrin commented from above.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

It took several hours to detain McMillan’s men, but eventually the farmers and their allies from the neighboring settlements rounded up the last of them and confiscated their weapons. Shepherd McGarrity had returned with several men from his settlement to help move the wounded by wagon to the nearest town, four hours away, where an actual doctor could treat those who needed it. The rest were sent back to their settlement, minus their weapons, with the impression that McGarrity and his men had brought even more ammunition and the men from the other farms would be sticking around, just in case.

That night Gerrin, McGarrity and Auntie organized the Troll crew, the farmers and the allied farmers who had stuck around into patrols to insure that none of McMillan’s men returned to cause havoc. Over the course of the evening some of the families emerged from their quarters to congratulate each other over their victory and gradually an impromptu party took shape. Men and women brought out food and sacks of homemade wine and before long someone showed up with a guitar, another with a violin, and soon everyone not walking a patrol was eating, drinking, laughing and dancing before a roaring bonfire.

Gerrin, returning from a patrol, sat down on the berm of a foxhole beside Aldous and Reilly as Shepherd McGarrity approached. “And where is our Mister McMillan this evening?”

“Resting uncomfortably in one of our lockers”, Aldous responded, handing Gerrin a large wooden mug of homebrew.

“We’ll take him when we leave and drop him somewhere out of the way”, Gerrin added. “As long as none of his local buddies get in the way we should be fine”.

“Doubtful”, McGarrity said. “Most of the others were a little afraid of him, so if you managed to take him down, they’ll most likely steer clear for now. As long as his own boys don’t regroup-”.

“They won’t”, Reilly cut in. “I kinda gave the guys staying behind the impression that we were Alliance mercs, so that should discourage them for now”.

“And the money?”

“Siphoned some of it off to a couple of fake accounts to make it look like he was skimming a lot off the top. The rest went to hidden accounts for you, Auntie and us. If the Alliance comes looking at all they’ll be looking for him”.

“You can keep my account, we’re fine”, McGarrity mused.

“Think of it as compensation for past aggravation”, Reilly offered.

McGarrity changed the subject. “I noticed you’re a bit more armed than usual these days”.

Gerrin looked up. “Huh?”

McGarrity gestured toward the silhouette of the ship. “The guns in the aft section”.

“Oh, those”, Gerrin shrugged. “We found ‘em on Higgins’ moon. There was this old ship scrapyard with all kinds of stuff”.

“Do they work?”

“Doesn’t much matter”, Reilly answered, “We ran out of ammo months ago”.

McGarrity chortled amusedly “How’d that happen?”

Reilly glanced sideways at Gerrin. “We had a visitor helped us with a Reaver problem a few months back”, he noted.

“Oh yes, that”, McGarrity glanced at Gerrin.

Gerrin’s face remained unchanged in the flickering firelight. “Damn good shot, that one”.

McGarrity stood up. “Well, your efforts here were most definitely appreciated”, he said, looking around. “In fact, I think you may have just found yourselves a new home port, if you want one”.

Gerrin chuckled. “I’ll take it up with the crew”.

“Do that. Seriously”. Reaching down, McGarrity patted Gerrin on the shoulder. “In the meantime, enjoy this party. All of you. It’s for you and yours, too.”

Reilly watched McGarrity walk away before turning to Gerrin. “You know, this could’ve gone a lot different”.

“Let’s just take the win and move on”, Gerrin replied tersely.

Reilly snorted. “More than half of ’em didn’t want to fight. It’s only blind luck that Anna talked them into it, and blind luck that McGarrity could get the neighbors involved. This could’ve turned into a real turkey shoot, with us as the turkeys. You think about that?”

“Just take the win and get over it”, Gerrin repeated irritably.

They all turned quickly as Anna approached. “I thought you were on patrol”, Gerrin said, somewhat suspiciously”.

“I just got back”. Anna answered casually. “Besides, I heard my name”.

“Okay . . . go get yourself a drink”, Gerrin gestured with the mug Aldous had handed him.

Anna reached down and took the mug from Gerrin’s hand. “Go ask your pilot to dance”.


“Go ask your pilot to dance”, she repeated. “You two need to get back on good terms, and that might help”.

“I wasn’t aware we were off ‘em”. Gerrin said.

Anna reached down and pulled at Gerrin’s arm “Go ask you pilot to dance”, she repeated more firmly.

“Fine”, Gerrin sighed, rising. As he stood up, Reilly grabbed for his other sleeve. “You nearly got us all martyred for . . . tyen shiao duh (heaven knows what), I sure don’t . . . to prove you’re a good man?” As Gerrin eyed him, he continued sternly “You don’t need to keep proving you’re a good man”.

“Yeah, we already get that”, Aldous broke in.

Reilly looked at Aldous, then back at Gerrin. “Those who count know. Now take it and get on with your life”

Gerrin dug into his pocket and drew out a coin. Flipping it at Reilly he commented “Thanks for seeing me, Dr. Reilly”. Gerrin turned and started toward the onlookers watching the dancers.

As he approached, Gerrin could hear Loomie telling some kind of story to Park and one of the farmers, the one named “Earl”: “. . . this one guy used to work with us, right after we got here – guy named Lang – well, he got drunk one night and was gonna ‘show me what a woman’s for’ – anyway Nick tackled him and knocked him cold and had me hover at 600 feet while he dangled Lang off the cargo bay ramp yelling-“ and here her voice changed into a credible imitation of Gerrin’s “’- you pull that gos-se on my crew, I get nasty! Wanna see nasty?”

“Worked, didn’t it?” Gerrin broke in

Loomie’s mood suddenly turned cooler. Gerrin extended his hand. “Miss Gavigan, would you favor me with a dance?”

Loomie looked at the outstretched hand. “Wouldn’t that be like fraternizing, captain?”

Gerrin drew back slightly. “Well, we’ll just have to take that chance, won’t we?”

Loomie eyed Gerrin’s hand for a moment, then put down the mug she was holding and reached up slowly and took it. They walked together toward the other dancers. The assembled musicians had just begun playing some sort of waltz as Gerrin and Loomie faced each other, joined, and stepped to the music.

Loomie stumbled slightly but recovered. “Easy”, Gerrin admonished gently. “Was that your first mug?”


“Mine neither. Look, I know you’re bothered by this-“

“Why didn’t you just back out?” Loomie blurted petulantly. “Half these people didn’t even want to fight for their own land”.

“Half of ‘em did”, Gerrin reminded her. “And the half that did was worth helping”.

“But why did you have to stick your neck out so far this time?”

“I told you from the get-go you could sit this one out if you wanted”, Gerrin reminded her. “You didn’t have to follow, you and Aldous and the rest of the crew”.

“You’d do it for us”.

“That’s it?”

Loomie stopped moving. Looking up at him, she said, half solemnly, half petulantly, “I like who I’m working for. Okay?”

Gerrin examined her face for a few seconds. Reaching down he took her by the hand and started toward an unoccupied crate at the edge of the light. “Come on”, he said gently. “Let’s have another mug and a talk”.

Loomie walked with Gerrin to one of the women filling the mugs, then moved to the long crate. They sat at the crate, side by side, drinking and talking as the party continued deep into the night.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The next day on the Troll shortly before taking off Aldous pounded on the door of Gerrins cabin. Gerrin stirred, then noticed the bulge under his blanket was a bit larger than usual. Slowly reaching up and lifting the blanket he froze as his eyes widened and the color drained from his face. “Oy, gavnoh (Oh, shit)”, he gasped.

“What’d you say?”

Wincing, Gerrin struggled to make his voice sound half-awake. “I’ll be up there in a minute”.

“Okay. By the way, have you seen Loomie?”

Faking a yawn, Gerrin answered “Probably saying goodbye to the Howards and Doc and Wilkins”.

“Yeah, but they’re just staying for a little while, right?”

“Well, Doc’s gonna dry out, Wilkins is gonna keep an eye on her, and Anna and Lewis are staying to help Shepherd McGarrity put things back together here until we get back”.

Gerrin could hear Aldous grin. “You don’t think she went to square things with Lewis, do you?”

Feigning irritation, Gerrin responded more sharply “Just get the engines warmed up. I’ll go find Loomie”.

“Got it”.

Gerrin heard Aldous’s footsteps fade down the passageway. Looking beneath the covers again, he moaned “Oy, gavnoh (Oh, shit)”.

A slender brown arm popped out from beneath the covers and threw the covers back, exposing Loomie from the bare shoulders upward. “What? He don’t know, so we’re shiny . . . right?”

Five minutes later no one noticed as Gerrin and Loomie very quietly and hastily exited Gerrin’s cabin. Gerrin moved through the ship conducting a pre-flight check while Loomie darted to her own cabin, changed clothes and then went to the cockpit to ready the ship for departure.

An hour later Anna, Lewis, Auntie and Shepherd McGarrity, along with most of the farmers still able to walk, waved as the Nordic Troll, engines singing, lifted from the ground into the sky.

The End (for now)



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Tales From the Nordic Troll #10: Rule 303 (Part 1)
At the ladder from the cockpit she turned back. “But you know that what you plan and what happens don’t always match up”.
“We’re still flying”, Gerrin answered, then added “That’s what counts”.

Tales From the Nordic Troll #9: WIld Cards (part 6)
“Gentlemen, or – whatever”, Nick Gerrin announced, “Game’s over. Your boss split. Took all his money and vamoosed outta here. Some kind of Alliance trouble, I heard”. He paused before continuing, “Stand down. You ain’t gettin’ paid today. My friends and I got the high ground and you’ve been left high and dry”.

Tales From the Nordic Troll - #9: Wild Cards (part 5)
“We ain’t gonna hold ‘em back, there’s too many”, Roy cried. - - - “Then it should be harder for you to miss!” Aldous shot back. - - - “I think we might need to get outta here”, Roy protested. - - - “Gorram it”, Aldous snapped, “just keep shooting!” As he finished loading and turned to fire he muttered to himself “Gos-se! This must be what it feels like to be Nick”.

Tales From the Nordic Troll - #9: Wild Cards (part 4)
“People”, Gerrin continued, “we got things set in motion, we got a plan that’ll work, but we’re not going out there alone. Now, are you in or are you out?” - - - - The assembled farmers looked at each other. Five raised their hands. “I’m in”, they proclaimed one at a time. - - - - “What about the rest of you?” Gerrin demanded. - - - - The rest sat there, silent. - - - - Gerrin eyed them contemptuously. “Envy the country that has heroes, huh?” he growled. As he turned and stormed toward the door he added “Pity the land that needs ‘em”.

Tales From the Nordic Troll - #9: Wild Cards (part 3)
The leader whipped out his gun and aimed toward Reilly. “Where’s my men?” He snapped. - - - Reilly looked around him. “Swallowed by darkness?” he offered. - - - “Gettin’ smart, huh?” The leader cocked the hammer on his weapon. “Well, I still got you now, don’t I?” - - - “Only two problems”. Reilly raised his hands holding the rope he’d been bound with. “I’m untied”. - - - The leader stiffened and cocked his head. “What’s the other one?” - - - Reilly gestured. “They’re here”.

Tales From the Nordic Troll - #9: Wild Cards (part 2)
“Gentlemen“, Shepherd McGarrity started, “this won’t-“ . . . . “Shut it, preacher”, the leader snapped, turning his gun toward McGarrity. “Your services ain’t needed...” He raised his weapon. “…yet”. . . . . “Oh, that just won’t do”, Gerrin chided as he cocked his head. “I suggest you apologize to the Shepherd and take your leave before something bad happens to you”. . . . . “Take ‘em!” the leader roared as he whipped his pistol toward Gerrin and fired.

Tales From the Nordic Troll - #9: Wild Cards (part 1)
“Don’t worry, captain”, McGarrity called back, gesturing to the man beside him. “I think this gentleman might have something a little more in line with your crew’s particular set of skills”.

Tales From the Nordic Troll - #8: Business as Usual (part 6)
Both ships were close enough to be clearly seen in the pilot’s window. “Might be a good time to turn”, Reilly commented nervously.

Tales From the Nordic Troll - #8: Business as Usual (part 5)
Bullets bounced off the hood and sides of the truck as Gerrin sped toward the far end of the building. Wilkins, perched on her stomach in the bed, maneuvered a small 10-liter plastic barrel with a fuse in the end toward the lowered cargo gate in back of the bed. Pulling out a lighter, she lit the fuse as Gerrin, firing from the driver’s seat, suddenly swerved away from the building.

Tales From the Nordic Troll - # 8: Business as Usual (part 4)
Whump! - - -
Reilly fought to keep from uttering a sound as the fist of one of Reznor’s men struck him in the stomach again. Reilly raised his eyes toward his captor and sneered “Trying to torture me or tease me?”